Slip Sliding Away: 9 tips for Keeping Your Car On Track This Winter
by Jay Alling
There are lots of choices when it comes to outfitting with your vehicle with winter tires. Take a moment to brush up on your tread acumen.
According to Will Robbins, senior product manager at Bridgestone Americas, winter tires not only help with snowy conditions but improve grip anytime temperatures dip below freezing. The blend of rubber with other compounds such as synthetic rubber to make it more pliable in the kind of low temperatures drivers may see in the Plain states or Canada.
Winter tires are designed for different applications–road conditions and driving requirements. The following categories can help you pick the right winter tire based on your driving habits.
Winter tire safety
All winter tires are designed to stay flexible in below-freezing temperatures. The mixture of synthetic rubber helps determine how it stands up to different weather conditions.
There are many choices when it comes to performance of winter tires. All of them are designed to handle freezing temperatures, but there are trade-offs when you choose tires that offer pliability in cold temperatures.
The design of tires is a balance of different attributes. Some drivers prefer a quiet ride while others want to get a long tread life. Each of the factors affects tire construction as well as wear and grip.
Consider the following performance attributes when buying your next set of winter tires:
- Looking for a comfortable, quiet ride? Design of tire block–the rectangles in the tread–contribute to road noise. How they are designed helps determine the type of sound tires make when rolling.
- Do you prefer long tread life? Softer the tread grips better but also wears out faster, especially in warmer climates.
- What kind of winter conditions do you expect to encounter? Areas of heavy snow may need heavy duty tires designed for blizzard-like conditions. Other drivers may encounter only light snow and can use tires designed for the occasional wintry scene.
- How does tire “siping” affect winter performance? Winter tires help achieve their victory over ice through a 1,000 cuts. That is, they have many small slices in the tread that help rubber flex as it goes over icy surfaces. Different winter tires offer a variety of siping patterns.
- Why does tread depth matter for winter tires? Generally, deeper tread grooves in winter tires reduce snow build up and improve traction.
- How do tire patterns help during snowy conditions? Tire patterns channel water and snow from underneath the tire. Winter tires come in a variety of patterns based on your preferences and areas where you expect to drive.
- Should I buy separate wheels for my new set of winter tires? Some drivers prefer swapping out wheels rather than resetting tires after the winter season.
- Where do I store my other set of tires? Tires need to be stored in a cool, dry environment over winter.
- Can I put winter tires on just the drive wheels of my vehicle or should I replace all 4 tires? Tires need to be replaced in sets of four.
Jay Alling is editor of Sensible Driver. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.